Resistance finally gave way. After two years of being intermittently invited, I agreed. Sunday I was in the television studio at Delhi. Subject: Is politics a men’s club? The real discussion was on the Women’s Reservations Bill.
The panel was high-powered. And I say this because you realise that it does not matter. A couple of the high-powered had hardly any say because what you need is to be pushy. As Lord Meghnad Desai, sitting next to me, advised during the break, “You will have to interrupt.”
I cannot. It is uncouth. Anyhow, I feel only two people were really qualified to speak – Dr. Najma Heptulla, the former deputy chairperson of the Lok Sabha, and Amrit Brar, a police officer from Punjab. They were in professions where the hierarchy is most manifest. The former is soft-spoken; the latter barely got a chance to say much.
Television is a medium of sound bytes and clichés. Just in case anyone is interested, my points – some that got past, some edited out, some remained unsaid…
I am against these 33 per cent reservations for women in parliament and got to comment at the point when a gentleman said that women are the most backward and oppressed caste. Is this what these women want to be considered? Do they want such patronising sops? Yes, I did mutter, “Oh god” under my breath… because…
Women tend to get the soft portfolios …just to give it a facetious though pertinent angle I said since these are kickbacks-potential portfolios, women too should be entitled to their share.
The argument against was full of clichés. Children’s development is not a soft portfolio; these are important issues. No one discusses them in Parliament. And we are living in a patriarchal society where female foetuses are aborted.
(As though I bloody don't know.)
* Shabana Azmi who is pro-reservations talked most about all the ‘right’ things. Throughout she kept mentioning how we need this group of women, and then she said women are not a monolith. I immediately said that she was contradicting herself.
The moment you have a set-up where you say you need these many women you are clubbing them into a hole. This is a monolith. Of course, she did not like it and said she did not know what I was talking about.
The good Lord MD said that gender is a fact and, because he was such a sweetheart (no airs etc), I gracefully accepted the statement as something I had just discovered with a smile. Okay, I said if it is a fact then why have certain things not happened, what has prevented it.
* The final round was about the timeframe for this Bill to see fruition. A century, said someone…as much time as it takes, said another…This only proves my point that you only want to have something on paper.
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The show was telecast on the same day. I got a message from a friend: “You are on TV, which means you are in Delhi, which means you have not informed me.”
So I called. He was with a colleague from Mumbai at the India International Centre.
As soon as I walked into the lounge, he said, “Ah, you look the same as you did on TV”. Dilliwallahs will always be Dilliwallahs. The lady at the next sofa asked me what it was about; I gave the blah in short…and she said she had worked on several projects for “women’s empowerment”.
“What have you got to do with the subject?” she asked.
Rather charmingly I replied, “Nothing, except that I am a woman.”
Strange, strange. I was there despite not knowing anyone on the channel, being completely out of the media eye, being myself.
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It just so happened that M.J.Akbar's Covert was being launched the day I was returning. A call. I turned back from the airport. My first media party. Amazing. Absolutely wonderful to be there because I met some really nice people. Different groups, different conversations. From Pakistan to politics to Urdu and Farsi to the paranormal.
Someone said rather helpfully, “Oh, she does not spare anyone.”
People were leafing through copies. “So, what have you written on?”
I hmm-ed a bit. Here is a hardcore political fortnightly. When I was asked to get my column Maverick on board, I did not know what the magazine would look like…the emphasis, the stories. I decided to steer clear of anything political. I wrote about pornography. The title is: “Civilise society, add a dash of porn”.
There is no e-edition of the magazine yet. Have fun!